Wine Country, Santa Ynez Valley
Concierge.com's insider take:
Sideways put Santa Barbara's pinot noir in the spotlight, but let's not forget the award-winning chardonnays and great cabernet. Wine country is only 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, with 80-plus wineries to choose fromunless you have a willing designated driver, take a tour. Cloud Climbers' Back-Country Wine Tour has a terrific young staff and six-passenger open Jeep Wranglers that make vineyard-hopping fun and easy (805-646-3200; www.ccjeeps.com). For the vine huggers out there, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers guided tours of organic and biodynamic wineries in a soybean-powered van (805-698-3911; www.sustainablevine.com). Then there's Wine EdVentures, an educational safari of the Santa Ynez Valley in a plush van (805-965-9463; www.welovewines.com). All pick you up in Santa Barbara and offer private tastings of six to eight vinos at a minimum of four different wineries each day, plus a gourmet picnic lunch. Don't have an entire day to devote to wine? You can always explore Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail on foot. The self-guided tour leads you through eight wineries and tasting rooms conveniently located downtown. Key stops include Cellar 205 Winery & Marketplace, Santa Barbara Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, and East Beach Wine Company. There's even a tasting room on Stearns Wharf. Most wineries offer wine purchase drop-offs at local hotels as well as maps to guide you through your grape adventure.